Miss Pettigrew out on the town
It occurred to me then that there was another similar list to be made: older women, not giving up, and entertaining us along the way. And they needed to be comfort reads – ones you can pick up and know they will cheer you up. Perhaps I should call this list
Books Like Miss Pettigrew.
What a fruitful field it turned out to be – and even with all those below, I will have missed some out, so please add them in the comments. All the books and authors below have featured on the blog: follow the links to see full entries.
1) Diary of a Provincial Lady by EM Delafield – so much more than the sum of its parts, in a way that is hard to define. Perhaps because it really does read like a diary, but has been very carefully written and constructed to give that dashed-off effect. One of the most featured books on the blog (along with James Joyce’s Ulysses – perhaps Molly Bloom should be included as a splendid older lady).
2) Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day by Winifred Watson. The perfect cheering up book- funny and charming and life-affirming, even if it is a complete fairytale. One of the publisher Persephone’s finest finds.
3) Margery Sharp – The Eye of Love, The Nutmeg Tree, Something Light. The heroines are older, but they are usually having a last burst of activity, looking for someone to settle down with. The Eye of Love, a quite extraordinary book, shares the story between someone too young for romance, and her aunt, a complete anti-heroine: old and plain and not in fact particularly appealing. But you end up rooting for her.
This could easily be a Margery Sharp heroine
4) Barbara Pym and her Excellent Women - stalkers in comfy shoes and a nice cardigan. Sometimes you want to throttle her heroines for putting up with too much, but the books are endlessly enjoyable.
5) Angela Thirkell’s Barsetshire novels are always there when you need them, even though they can be quite annoying. As I said in this post on Northbridge Rectory, there is always 'the usual woman of great humour and self-deprecation but terribly attractive to everyone etc etc – see all Thirkell’s books – and a repository for what one assumes were Thirkell’s own views'.
6) Aunty Mame by Patrick Dennis, as dealt with on the blog by the Guest Blogger. Mame is the older woman seen through a child’s eyes, and she is forever loveable, always fighting her way through the trials of life with great elan and wit.
7) A second male author making the list – Being Julia by W Somerset Maugham (aka Theatre). The hilarious story of an actress fighting back against any idea that she should let others, younger women, take the limelight. Also a wonderful film.
8) And a third, perhaps surprisingly: Graham Greene’s Travels with My Aunt. An oddity among Greene's books, but Aunt Augusta is wonderful.
9) Henrietta’s War by Joyce Dennys – I have only just read this account of one woman’s life on the homefront, but I am certain it has joined the canon, and will be re-read frequently.
10) The wonderful Lucia, created by EF Benson (4th man on the list) – she is one of the great comic creations of the 20th century.
I feel I also should have added a trio of Misses – Miss Marple, Miss Read and Miss Pym (as in Josephine Tey, not Barbara Pym, above.)
Please add your own role-model-older-ladies below.